Birmingham: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur feels his side was given a “reality check" by India in the lost Champions Trophy clash on Sunday and the “below-par" show was a result of his players letting the occasion get the better of them. Arthur admitted that Pakistani players lacked self belief and erred in executing simple plans.
“We were below par. It’s as simple as that. And it’s a reality check of where we are in our one-day cricket at the moment," Arthur told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“We talk about setting the tone up front. But we didn’t set tone up front. We had a couple of guys that were in the clouds at the start and that sets the tone. For us to have a performance as tentative as that right from the start is a worry and the only thing I can think of is the magnitude of the occasion got to them."
India launched their Champions Trophy campaign with a resounding 124-run victory over Pakistan yesterday, extending their dominance over the arch-rivals in major ICC tournaments. Read more
Pakistan now need to win their final two games against Sri Lanka and South Africa to stand a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
“The guys tried as hard as they could. My issue is fear. My issue is getting out there and really looking to take the game on and just believing in themselves and believing that they can take the game on," Arthur said.
“The worrying thing for me, and it has been for a period of time, is we just do the basics wrong. We do the simple things wrong. We drop simple catches. We don’t run well enough between wickets," he lamented.
An exasperated Arthur could barely hide his disappointment with his players, who floundered in almost every aspect of the game.
“We don’t hit the keeper with our throws. We don’t understand when to bowl our variations. We bowled a really good over and then we bowled a variation in our sixth ball and that’s the ball that ended up going for a boundary," he said.
“So it’s the simplicity of those things that are worrying me at the moment and our understanding of when to do certain things. So that was disappointing. But we’ll bounce back from it," he added.
“We selected a team that we thought could go out there and rattle the cages of India. Ultimately our execution wasn’t good enough today. We thought we had an attack that could really attack them and put them under pressure. And we didn’t execute that at all."
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The shoddy performance, notwithstanding, Arthur defended Pakistan’s record in recent times. “It’s a total insult to say we’re playing even worse. If you have a look at our records over the last year we’ve won two series. We’ve got ourselves from No. 9 to No. 8 in the rankings and our brand of cricket has changed," the South African insisted.
“We had a poor game today. But we’re obviously trying our best and we’re trying to change it. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re trying every day. Every time we go down to training, we try and get the basics right. We didn’t do it today. And that’s disappointing."
Asked whether yesterday’s defeat will only take Pakistan cricket backward, the coach said: “In fact, something like this could take it forwards, for the simple reason that a lot of questions get answered.
“When we put a performance in like that we answer a lot of questions, and a lot of things become clearer for us in terms of how we take this team forward."
Not just the big defeat, there were also concerns in the Pakistani camp over the fitness of several players like Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz. While Amir left the field after one ball in what would have been his ninth over, due to cramps, Riaz limped off after twisting his ankle.
“I don’t know why they’re cramping. That’s something that I need to take up with the medical team. The magnitude of the occasion? Possibly. Possibly. And I think very definitely," Arthur said.
“Wahab Riaz was fully fit. He went through a fitness test; he was declared fully fit. He performed poorly today. But he had a role to play. And I’ll take the blame, me, I’ll take it. I selected him. I selected him because I wanted him to perform a role. He didn’t execute that role, unfortunately. So sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. We picked Shadab ahead of Fahim today. That worked really well. I thought Shadab was outstanding. So, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t," he said.
Pakistan will play South Africa in a crucial Group B encounter in Birmingham on Wednesday.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed felt his side lost the plot in the final overs of the Indian innings.
“Everything was under control after 40 overs, but we lost the plot in the last eight. Credit to India’s batsmen. They scored 124 in those last eight, and the momentum went to India. I think we need to stick together and control our bowling rate, especially last few overs," a disappointed Sarfraz said.